Monday 23 April 2018

'A shambles' - Schools, GPs and council 'left in the dark over refugee plan'

Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice launched a scathing attack on the Government’s handling of the Ballaghaderreen refugee plan. Photo: Tom Burke
Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice launched a scathing attack on the Government’s handling of the Ballaghaderreen refugee plan. Photo: Tom Burke
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The plan to house 80 Syrian refugees in Roscommon has been branded "a shambles" after it emerged agencies expected to provide vital services had not been consulted before the go-ahead was given.

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald was last night warned the Syrian refugee programme faces being thrown into chaos if host Irish communities are deliberately kept in the dark.

Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice launched a scathing attack on the Government's handling of the Ballaghaderreen refugee plan and described it as "a farce" and "a shambles".

He revealed that even local politicians who support the Government were not briefed on the plan to place 80 refugees in the town's disused Abbeyfield Hotel.

The Independent TD warned that the entire plan was handled "deplorably", with Roscommon County Council being told at 4pm on Thursday about a briefing at 11am the following day.

The Irish Independent has also learned that no prior consultation has taken place with local agencies.

"The local schools, GPs and county childcare committee were also left in the dark with many finding out the news in Friday morning's papers and on Facebook - this is a farce," Mr Fitzmaurice said.

"The fact that the first anyone in an official capacity in Roscommon either in the local authority or any of the other agency heard about the establishment of this centre was on Thursday evening at 4pm, less than a month before the relocating of refugees to the rural town is nothing short of a joke."

Mr Fitzmaurice also said Irish communities that accept refugees were entitled to have additional resources for social housing purposes.

"There is need for a quid-pro-quo here to in some way compensate the people of the Ballaghaderreen area for the deplorable manner in which the department handled this matter," he said.

"The locality must be supported with housing initiatives for local people in need of social housing - it is very hard to look a local family in desperate need of social housing in the eye and say 'you'll just have to wait'. This has been done in a very heavy-handed manner."

The 80 refugees, more than half of whom are children aged under 14, will begin arriving from Greece by the end of the month.

Government officials have moved to ease security concerns by revealing all will be screened by gardaí, finger-printed and cross-checked by Europol.

Ballaghaderreen was chosen from a number of Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) established around Ireland by the Department of Justice in the wake of the Mediterranean refugee crisis.

Abbeyfield Hotel was identified as an ideal refugee centre because of its excellent facilities.

Roscommon Council will receive financial support for the refugee programme.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News